Education Minister Stephen Lecce says that classes will “absolutely be back in session” this week even though the province’s schools remain shuttered to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Lecce made the comment to CP24 on Sunday, one day ahead of the resumption of teacher-led instruction using largely online platforms.

As part of Ontario’s online learning plan, students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 will receive five hours of work per week while students in Grades 7 and 8 will receive 10 hours of work per week and secondary school students will get three hours of work per week for each course they are enrolled in.

Students will still be issued report cards with grades under the plan; just as they would have had COVID-19 not interrupted the school year. Grade 12 students will also still be able to graduate and the province has loosened mandatory requirements around volunteer hours in light of the pandemic.

“I know schools are physically closed and that is a challenge but classes are absolutely back in session in this province and I want students to know and their parents to know that we are working in partnership with educators to keep their child engaged in learning,” Lecce said. “We have an opportunity in Ontario. We have the ingenuity, the capacity and the technology to reach as many students as possible and I want students to learn. I do not want to do what some provinces have done and that is to send their children home.”

School closure could be extended past May 4

Lecce said that work is underway to help students who may lack an internet connection or appropriate technology to get access to everything they need to continue learning with local boards taking the lead in coordinating those efforts.

He said that the hope is that Ontario’s online learning program could provide some students with a “competitive advantage” once classes eventually resume while also lessening the “burden on families in the province that no doubt have economic and health challenges.”

Of course the question of when classes may resume in a more formal way remains unclear, something that Lecce conceded,

So far Ontario has closed all schools through May 4 but Premier Doug Ford has warned that he would not hesitate to extend that order should it be necessary.

“I understand parents what that predictability and we have told the Chief Medical Officer of Health that we want as much predictability and certainty for parents as possible,” Lecce told CP24. “As this point we can preserve the year and get kids graduating. If the Chief Medical Officer of Health indicates to us that we need to extend the closure beyond May 4 then I will do so without reservation but at this point he has recommended another interim closure.”